Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two-time COBI grad focused on giving back

Rob Bleile is a two-time grad of the UT College of Business and Innovation, having obtained both his bachelor's and Executive MBA there.

He's a past president of the COBI Alumni Affiliate, currently a board member of the UT Alumni Association, and it's probably no surprise that he has season tickets to all UT's games.

He is more than an alum of the college; he is committed to it.

"I wanted to stay involved, to stay connected," Bleile said. "I like involvement, and I have a connection with the University now that is so much more than the networking. It makes me proud to be on campus."

The Norwalk, Ohio native originally came to UT as a student in the College of Engineering, but after a year transferred to the business college.

"It's hard to describe, but the College of Business, the entire University grounds really sold me. You could see the whole campus, and it felt warm and embracing."

"When I started in the College of Business, I fully embraced it," Bleile said.  "In my first semester in the business college I rushed Alpha Kappa Psi, The Professional Business Fraternity. Everything I have today I can trace back to Alpha Kappa Psi, including having met my beautiful wife, Ala, and my future business partner there."

Ala and Rob Bleile
While in college he worked for the COBI computing department under the late Joe Kiel. Upon graduation, Bleile and his partner established Shopmetrics, a data collection software platform for the mystery shopping industry, launching it in 2004.

"I grew up among entrepreneurs. My father and grandfather both started businesses.   I knew my friend Emil Tsankov (UT MBA ‘02) and I could start a business in the IT field. Emil being from Bulgaria, gave us the advantage of being an international business from day one. We have clients in nearly 40 countries, about half in North and South America, and the other half throughout the rest of the world. Now I am an entrepreneur."

But perhaps one business is not enough for an entrepreneur who likes to be involved, so four years ago Bleile took over as President of American Timber and Steel in Norwalk with his brother Adam, the company his father started in 1983 and in which he began to work while still in high school.

"I like the diversity. Shopmetrics, the software company, is a service business, while the lumber company has manufacturing, sales and different challenges.  Every day is different, yet somehow what I learn in one business I can apply in the other.  I'm having fun in the lumber business now, making it our company. I can't say that I enjoy everything, but I don't know if I could leave it."

In 2009 Bleile returned to UT COBI and obtained his Executive MBA.  "I really liked what I saw in the EMBA program," he said. "For me it was great; I was able to work in my business for five years, then was able to come back to school to learn how to take the next steps."

"I enjoy what I do," Bleile continued. "I enjoy waking up and coming to work, being with my family, coming to the university and seeing new things on campus. I need to thank my wife, Ala, because my success is due to her support; she deserves a lot of the credit, allowing me to do the things I am doing today.  She was an accounting and international business student in COBI, and now she focuses her talents and energy on raising our three amazing children."

"Everything I do needs to provide value to someone, yet it's hard to determine what is value," Bleile reflected.  "Value can be a financial return, or just doing the right thing."

"I like giving, be it my time or resources," Bleile said. "It was a big thing instilled in us by my parents and grandparents, who taught me to give back. This is what brings the most satisfaction in my life; it drives and motivates me. Giving back is my personal mission."

Jump Start program helps COBI 2015 Jumpstudents transition from high school to college

During the week before fall, 2015 classes started at The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation, dozens of incoming freshmen jump started their college life through an innovative, free program designed to provide incoming business majors with a variety of activities focused on enhancing their chances for success.

Targeting academic and social skills, the primary goal is to help new students through the transition from high school to college. Jump Start began in 1997 and was made possible because of a gift from John & Lillian Neff.

2015 Jump Start activities included a tour of The Image Group 
"Participants are able to meet other first year students while experiencing a wide range of programming presented by UT faculty, staff, alumni and students, in addition to members of the greater Toledo community," explained program coordinator Darlene Stevens.

Some of the program activities included: touring Fortune 500 companies, attending a Mud Hens baseball game, participating in a campus scavenger hunt, meeting alumni and networking.

In addition to all expenses paid for the above activities, students receive gift cards for partial textbook fees for the fall and spring semesters.

"Students with high school grade point averages ranging from 2.4 to 3.0 and ACT composite scores from 18 to 23 are ideally suited for the program however all applicants are considered," Stevens said.

Freshman Nick Climer said, "Overall, my experience with Jump Start was amazing. Through Jump Start, I have formed friendships and bonds that I know will last a life time. Not only did I get to experience all the wonderful things that the Toledo community has to offer, I also got to have some fun as well! Jump Start has truly impacted my career here at The University of Toledo in an extremely positive way."

"Jump Start was a great opportunity for all of us coming into the University of Toledo's COBI," said Amanda Martin. "It was especially great for students who aren't from around this area. Those students not only got to experience the Toledo lifestyle through some of our tourist spots such as the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium and an awesome Toledo Mud Hens game, but they also got to learn about some of our major businesses such as Fifth Third Bank and Healthcare Reit."

Andrew Brownlee said, "We did so many different activities at Jump Start that it made it very easy to make great friends. The friends I met in Jump Start are on my dorm floor and we get closer every day. I honestly loved Jump Start and everything it has done for me to start of my college career the best way possible. And Darlene Stevens was the best instructor I could ask for! She knows everything and gives great advice."

New COBI sales faculty member knows UT is the place to be

If someone's existence was displayed like Facebook, the newest faculty member in the UT COBI Edward H. Schmidt School of Professional Sales' would have checked many episodes in her life with "Likes."

Dr. Catherine Johnson, Assistant Professor in the Marketing and International Business Department, likes teaching, students, her previous career in banking, her new coworkers in COBI, travel, writing, reading mysteries and uncharted experiences with people around the world.

Dr. Catherine Johnson
"I've seen the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, Australia, but I would love to go to Istanbul, New Zealand, the Falkland Islands," Dr. Johnson said. "The coolest places I've been are less traveled, less scripted. I really enjoy unscripted interaction with locals."

"I like students, they are fun to hang around," she added. "Because teaching sales is very interactive, with role plays and more, people need to engage. If you're going to teach sales, this is where you want to do it. But it's not enough to have a good program; it is also important that the faculty is warm and welcoming."

"Southerners are known for being friendly, and southern hospitality is true, but I found the people here to also be nice, supporting and friendly, as well as fun. UT seems to be really exciting right now. This is a great place to be."

"Plus," she said, "I'm kind of a Midwesterner."

Being born in Minnesota qualifies her as a Midwesterner, but she grew up in Louisville and attended the University of Kentucky, where she majored in German and history, spending a year in Germany through an exchange program.

She returned to Minnesota to obtain her master's degree, after which she worked in banking.

"I was the branch manager. It was a lot of fun and great for a sales experience. The financial service industry is interesting. At smaller banks, you have to do everything: you have to care about your customers.  You are the interface between the bank and the customer, and you have to cross-sell, upsell, and more."

Dr. Johnson obtained her Ph.D, at the University of Alabama, where she studied sales and consumer behavior and also taught for two years.

Her research revolves around emotional intelligence in sales outcomes, sales strategy and consumer behavior. In 2014 she received the best paper award at the American Marketing Association Winter Marketing Education Conference, and also received an award from the Sheth Foundation Doctoral Consortium.  She recently had a paper about corporate social responsibility accepted by the Journal of Business Research. "It will be my first paper which will reflect my position at The University of Toledo."

Dr. Johnson said she went into teaching because "I've always liked working with students; plus the academic life appealed to me because it involves both reading and writing about what you want. Furthermore, both my father and grandfather were professors, so I've always lived in a college town, such as East Lansing and Tuscaloosa. "

"The best part of teaching is getting students excited about what you are excited about, to transfer your enthusiasm to others, especially in entry level classes," she explained.  "When they 'get it' and students make that connection, that's neat.   I also like it when I've made a lasting impact with students, when a student comes back to see you, or asks for advice, or when students feel that I am approachable and will actually come up and introduce you to their parents."

"It's about making a difference in a student's life, making an impact.  You are there to help them; it is not just about one class."

"The field of sales is really great, and the proof that the program is working is when students come out prepared to sell. That shows that we place the focus on the students and learning outcomes," Dr. Johnson said.   "Here at UT the sales school places students in front of recruiters all the time, and they can tell that our students are now professionals."

And that is something that all students, and the companies which hire them, "Like."

COBI Golf Outing 2015

The 16th Annual University of Toledo Business vs. Engineering Scholarship Golf Outing, presented by Hylant, took place on Saturday August 22, 2015 at the Stone Oak Country Club. All proceeds from this fun, philanthropic event go toward student scholarships.

Thank you to all the golfers and sponsors who made this a wonderful event.

Monday, September 21, 2015

COBI establishes the Klar Academy for Leadership Excellence

The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation believe that students are capable of doing much more than landing a job.  Many students can - - and should - - be leaders in their chosen fields.  These leaders will enrich their own lives, as well as those of their coworkers. They will make the places where they work not only more profitable and successful, but also better corporate citizens. Subsequently, they will make their communities better, and the quality of life will rise for thousands, even tens of thousands of people.

COBI has established the KLAR Academy for Leadership Excellence (launched Fall, 2015) to help  undergraduate students from across campus be able to enhance their leadership skills.

The mission of the Klar Academy for Leadership Excellence - - established thanks to the generous contribution of Steven Klar, a UT alum and president of the real estate development company, the Klar Organization.- -  is to expand and accelerate the development of the leadership acumen and talents of a select cadre of outstanding College of Business and Innovation undergraduate students so as to increase their career success, ability to impact the world for good and improve the human condition.

The goals of the Klar Academy for Leadership Excellence are to provide Academy participants with a transformational learning experience to build on their COBI education, enabling them to better lead themselves, others, teams, organizations and communities. The focus of this development effort is to provide Klar Academy students  with a hands-on, unique and difference-making educational experience so as to expand and develop core competencies such as the ability to think bigger and create vision; skill at achieving goals and delivering desired results; emotional intelligence, interpersonal and teaming skills; an expanded worldview and community service mindset; ethical decision making; confidence to lead others and demonstrate self-leadership; and a mentoring mindset.

The Klar Academy will use a variety of learning experiences and methodologies throughout fall and spring semesters to provide Academy members with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rapidly develop their leadership talents.

Following a pilot program for 50 College of Business and Innovation students, the Klar Academy expects to accommodate nearly 200 students per year with students from all colleges at The University of Toledo.

Steven Klar, president of the Klar Organization, a diversified real estate development, building and brokerage firm, was honored as The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation 2005 Business Pacemaker of the Year. Klar received a bachelor’s of business administration from UT in 1969, then went on to earn a law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1973.

The Klar Academy for Leadership Excellence is a new, innovative and inclusive component of the developing Center for Leadership and Organizational Excellence. It directly serves undergraduate students and is representative of the important goals and scope of the emerging Center.